Worker describes dramatic last-second escape from burning building (+video)

By Juan Lozano

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 26 2014 6:49 p.m. MDT

In this image taken from video provided by Karen Jones, a worker waves to rescue workers for help from the fifth floor balcony before swinging down to the one below as firefighters battle a five-alarm fire at a construction site Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Houston. The cellphone video, shot by Karen Jones from her nearby office, shows the dramatic rescue of the worker from the burning apartment complex that was under construction.

Karen Jones, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

HOUSTON — A Houston construction worker whose harrowing escape from a burning building was caught on video said Wednesday that he knew he had to act quickly when he realized he was trapped on a fifth-floor balcony.

Curtis Reissig, 56, suffered minor burns to his face and hand in Tuesday's fire, which destroyed the planned $50 million luxury apartment complex.

"I was trapped up there," he said. "The flames were getting closer and hotter. I knew I had to do something. So I swung down to the lower floor."

Reissig, a construction supervisor, declined to call his own actions heroic, saying the real heroes were the firefighters who rescued him and battled the blaze.

Reissig described how he hung from the fifth-floor balcony ledge, swung his body and landed on the edge of the balcony below. He then was able to jump onto a fire truck ladder and escape the flames.

Karen Jones, who works in a nearby office, captured the rescue on cellphone video. The footage shows Reissig being pulled away by the ladder just before an outer wall collapsed nearby.

Reissig said he went to the roof of building after he heard a small fire had broken out. He planned to douse the flames with an extinguisher, but strong winds quickly spread them.

He said he retreated to the fifth floor but soon was overcome by smoke, forcing him to the balcony. He told a crowd of media Wednesday that he feared the thick smoke would suffocate him.

The cause of the fire was under investigation Wednesday, but witnesses said it was caused by workers who were welding something on the roof.

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